There’s An Unexpected Way We Can Show Empathy

We learn and we struggle to be kind. We are taught that being altruistic in our actions is the royal path to being a moral person. When we make others feel bad we feel guilty. But are there cases in which making the others feel bad is the kind thing to do?


Researchers from the University of Plymouth have created several experiments to see if encouraging negative feelings can actually help others.

Most of the time when we make others feel bad about themselves we do it for selfish reasons. We are envious, angry or just indelicate with their emotions.

But when we get tough with our friends, when we pull them aside to tell them they had enough to drink for the night or that they should have that mole check, we have nothing to gain from that.

We use fear or anger to make sure they take care of themselves. We offer them another perspective, a push towards what we think it’s best for them.

So sometimes we choose to inflict a negative emotion, knowing or hoping that it is beneficial for them in the long term.

What the researchers have found out is that people chose to do that not only when it comes to close relationships, but also when it comes to strangers.

This is important because it shows that we can be altruistic and emphatic without expecting any rewards.

Of course, this strategy can be tricky, since we cannot always be sure that when we are hard on others we have only their best interest in mind. Sometimes we rationalize our actions by saying that our cruelty is helpful when in fact is just us being emotionally tactless.

So we should be careful when we choose this strategy. It implies we are skillful in the art of emotions and we know very well our own motivations and what kind of motivation works for the other.

There are many and fascinating ways to help others. Please share this!